Pedri’s Spain debut is just the start for the Barcelona kid who has the potential to be one of the best in the game

This topic is so important that we have to start with the basics. His working name is Pedri. He plays in midfield for Barcelona and Spain. His full name is Pedro González López. He turned 18 in November.

Now ladies and gentlemen: I’m going to build a case that we are witnessing the flourishing of one of the world’s greatest talents. Whether it is modern day or “all time” largely depends on it. That’s how good it is.

When Pedri is on the ball, the angels sing. Then they put down their harps and scores and just look at them in wonder. His football brain is the size of California. He is cheeky, brave, fast and old-school, Leo Messi is completely in the grip of him, he loves the ball and the flipping ball loves him. We’re talking about a guy who is several months into his first season for one of football’s elite teams – in theory we should be seeing glimpses of something special shining through experiences from the top. downstairs as he finds his way through this vicious jungle we call ‘top football’.

Instead, this absolutely stunning footballer not only makes the whole company seem like a snap (literally), but he consistently takes over the matches to a degree that is truly amazing. It’s like looking at the footballing equivalent of molten gold: elegant, flowing, attractive and extraordinarily precious.

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Just in case you haven’t watched their consistent dominance of Barcelona’s season so far – where, if it weren’t for a recently resurrected Messi, Pedri would automatically be their player of the season – point guard. lean and pocket play. of the Canary Islands presented crystal-clear proof that he was good off the scale when he made his Spain debut against Georgia in Tbilisi last Sunday.

Tensions were high before this match. After Greece defended for a lifetime and won a 1-1 draw at Granada last week, losing more points was “prohibitive” for Spain on Sunday; in other words, totally unthinkable. The last time they had started the tournament’s first two qualifying matches without a single win was in 1957, thanks to a draw against Switzerland and loss to Scotland – from there, La Roja failed to qualify for the 1958 World Cup. Regarding a fight against international opponents who beat them in Getafe the last time the teams met, in 2016, it was obvious that this It has been 15 years since Spain had enjoyed a winning streak in their previous five matches. Things were so serious.

For a teenager to make his full debut like this with top pros and superstars like Sergio ramos, Dani Carvajal, Pau Torres and Gerard Moreno missing, and on third-rate pitch Luis Enrique subsequently complained – he said the ball was bouncing like a rabbit – was potentially a matter of nightmares. Especially 1-0 at halftime and with Willy Sagnol’s Georgia side pressing, harassing and counter-attacking with abundant glee.

Pedri, however, is a guy who rolls up his sleeves and socks. He has a slightly odd and identifiable “trot” on the ground. For most of my journalistic career I have heard UK club scouts use the phrase ‘he can’t run’ about the footballers they have watched and loved, doubting only their athleticism. This doesn’t automatically mean that a footballer is downright slow, but just makes running, and especially sprinting, seem like a beautiful thing that he manages to make brutal.

At first glance, Pedri’s ways of drifting on the ground are idiosyncratic enough that some observers may be distracted from his glow. He’s so smart and relentless in his movements that he reads situations long before they happen – long before most of his opponents – and so, arms and legs pumping like pistons, but no sweat. or noticeable sprint Pedri is the most wonderful thing in team sport: the right guy, the right place, the right time.

It all stood out when Spain equalized. Pedri simply slipped into position, having anticipated midfielder Otar Kiteishvili and what he wanted to do, blocked the Georgian and retrieving the ball, Dani Olmo fed Jordi alba, who crossed for Ferran Torres‘ goal.

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Shaka Hislop marvels at Pedri’s rise to Barcelona and signs the 18-year-old for a breakout year in 2021.

The most spectacular moment in what was an absolute masterclass of confidence, game reading, vision, technique and bravery came 20 minutes into what started to look like a deadly threat to Spain qualifying directly for the 2022 World Cup.

Wide on the left, Bryan Gil shunted Pedri a pass from nothing about 25 meters from the Georgian penalty area. The Barça kid didn’t look up. Instead, he let the ball roll over his right foot and made a long diagonal pass through a storm of five white-shirted opponents to Ferran Torres, who had run to the back post.

It was a pass he really shouldn’t have been able to see, let alone deliver with a ribbon on top; Meanwhile, the City forward was so visibly shocked by Pedri’s outrageous technique that he let the ball pass under his foot, wasting a glorious chance.

Just for a second or two, let me take you back to last summer, when Pedri was still a 17-year-old Las Palmas midfielder in the Spanish second division. It was the end of his decisive season, starting when he was just 16, and having already been rejected by Real Madrid after a trial there. But Barcelona had been alerted that there was a tiny diamond from a mischievous adrift player who appeared to have spent his entire life earning his chops at the Catalan club’s La Masia academy. They made a deal with Las Palmas, delayed the youngster’s arrival until the end of the pandemic-delayed Spanish season and he was there: happy, excited, largely unknown but completely uncertain.

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1:19

Sid Lowe joins ESPN FC to discuss prospects for La Roja after the World Cup qualifiers opened with a draw.

Barcelona were by no means the only club to have been alerted that something special was happening off the coast of Africa, more than 600 miles south of the Spanish mainland. Borussia Monchengladbach, one of the Bundesliga Champions League sides, was desperate to borrow Pedri immediately, suspecting he would be swallowed up and regurgitated by what was, at the time, an extremely volatile and irregular hierarchy of play. in Barcelona. He was also told, quite firmly, that the best he could aspire to in 2020-2021 as a Camp Nou employee was playing for the second string.

In fact, as Pedri told Diario Sport last July: “I really hope Barca B will be promoted to the second division because another year there, like I just had with Las Palmas , when you are young, can be good for you. But my only goal is to become a Barcelona player and triumph with the club, so I understand that if they don’t see me as ready for their first team, the better to go on loan.

“The main thing is to play. Very interesting proposals have been made by top clubs in Germany. [Bayern Munich were widely thought to be the other.] “They really insist on loaning me out, and Barca know all about that. These are clubs who think I could be a useful player for them and gain experience at the same time.”

Honestly: think about it. Eight months ago, Pedri felt he was either going to spend a comeback season in Division 2 with the Blaugrana academy kids or try to learn. German, face the freezing winter of the Bundesliga and adapt to “Gegenpressing”.

At the moment, 42 games in the career of Pedri’s first team at Barcelona, ​​the hero of our story surprisingly replaces the deceased. Luis Suarez as Messi’s new ‘best friend’ he plays for bookmaker favorite to win La Liga – Barcelona are four points behind leaders Atleti – he has a chance to beat Spain’s Copa del Rey against Athletic Club in a little over two weeks. , and as a horrific red card challenge from Georgian Levan Shengelia on Sunday night showed, he is considered a dangerous international footballer.

Perhaps the best thing about Pedri, at least for now, is that it doesn’t matter whether you love, respect, hate or be indifferent to FC Barcelona. Watching him glide across the playing field, seeing his supernatural anticipation, enjoying his instinctive first pass and ra-ta-ta-tat midfield tempo is pure joy for anyone who loves football.

There are plenty of tests awaiting the kid, including some hugely important games away from Real Madrid and at home against Atleti this season alone, and no one – literally no one – is immune to drops in form and downsizing. confidence, especially a skinny five footer. -new, inexperienced 18-year-old rivals are starting to like targeting. But I honestly believe that if young Pedri can avoid serious injury, we are witnessing the birth of a player who has the technical repertoire, attitude, character, brain and learning environment to continue and become one of the great modern Europeans. That’s how absolutely wonderful this kid is.

Do yourself a favor. Follow his matches and watch all the latest ones from now on. You have been warned: a real star is born.


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